Clinton Pickering – Freelance Writer
A 14-year-old Haitian girl, lured with promises of a better life, fell victim to the vicious cycle of human trafficking in Western Jamaica. The illegal and inhumane trafficking, privately supported by prominent figures in Montego Bay and across Western Jamaica, saw the teen being raped every night for four years and being subjected to a life of domestic servitude.
Now six years since that harrowing ordeal, which occurred in December 2012, the Court of Appeal has upheld the conviction against Rohan Ebanks, the 40-year-old St. Elizabeth fisherman charged with facilitating human trafficking and rape in relation to the teen.
Ebanks was arrested and convicted in court where he received sentences of 16 years for rape, 10 years for human trafficking, 14 years for facilitating human trafficking, plus four more years for another offence and ordered to pay $2 million to the victim.
Though Ebanks is behind bars, the teen’s story is but one of the over 7,400 alleged victims of human trafficking currently in Jamaica, according to the Walk Free Foundation, an international human rights organization focused on ending modern slavery globally.
Human Trafficking, according to head of the Anti-Crime and Trafficking in Persons Division, Carl Berry, is defined as “the recruitment, transfer, harbouring and exploitation of humans by humans” and for Berry, the details surrounding the Haitian teen’s horrific ordeal, while disturbing, are not uncommon for victims of the heinous criminal activity.
On Wednesday, inside a Montego Bay Community College lecture room, speaking at the St. James Lay Magistrates’ quarterly meeting, the 26-year veteran Berry disclosed some of what the teen had to go through.
HOW IT BEGAN
With Haiti and its people enduring their much-publicized struggles, three Jamaican men, including Ebanks, are reported to have gotten in touch with the teen’s parents, who were already struggling with their nine children. When Ebanks and company promised to take the teen, who was the sixth of her mother’s children and 13 at the time, it was agreed that the teen would have been allowed to come to Jamaica, so long as her father came with her.
Just 45 minutes into the trip, according to reports, the teen witnessed her father being killed by the three men, following which his body was thrown overboard. That signaled the beginning of the horrors for her, as when she arrived in St. Elizabeth, living with Ebanks, his common law wife and three children, proved extremely difficult.
DREDGED FOR PREGNANCY
At age 14, the captive teen child got pregnant, and according to Berry, “the common-law wife whipped up a concoction of rusty nail, Pepsi and ginger and dredged her”. When the foetus came out, she was given a scandal bag in which to package it, dig a hole and bury it.
In addition to the nightly episodes of rape, the teenaged girl was beaten by both the man and his common-law, particularly in instances where she failed to deal with issues concerning cooking, laundering and babysitting of their three children. In all this, the teen was not allowed to go to school.
Having to live with the pain, shame and suffering, the child victim “tried to kill herself in excess of 21 times,” said DSP Berry.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN MOBAY
Meanwhile, in St James, DSP Berry said during an operation targeting prostitution on Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay’s popular Hip Strip, “We found prominent people being mixed up in the human trafficking trade.” He said a lot of people were unaware of the extremes to which the law goes concerning human trafficking. “If you are in a go-go club, for example, and these clubs are now mobile; you just ring up and they bring the number of girls to you. You can even have a go-go-club at home.”
Explaining further, the international crime sleuth said, “If, for whatever reason, you get a lap dance, for example, and you pay for that and it turns out that the child was being exploited, you are not safe and the law says we should prosecute you.”
DSP Berry revealed that “We were able to rescue 18 victims in one operation down here (Montego Bay).” He also spoke of particular instance in which “there was one girl, we were just down here when we learnt that she disappeared from St Thomas and as fate would have it, we were just across KFC when we heard a scream across from the beach. It was 11:00 p.m. We saw people running; there was one man bleeding. We saw a female and then another male with a knife. It was then that we realized it was the girl that had ran away from Morant Bay, St Thomas. She was with a cousin when they were both attacked by a man who attempted to rape her. We were able to rescue them.”
Some 45.8 million people are enslaved across the world currently in human trafficking schemes, and in Western Jamaica, the crime remains just as vibrant as it is on the international scene.